Yesterday in the process of curating articles for an agency client of ours, I came across one of the best marketing articles I’ve read in some time. (Dylan agrees, for what it’s worth).
Written for Fast Company by Umair Haque, the article—“How To Think About The Future Of Marketing (And Everything Else)”—provides a tremendous perspective on the problem with advertising, social media, and marketing as they stand today.
I’d recommend stopping what you’re doing and reading the article right now. If you don’t want to do that, here’s the gist of it: online advertisers are doing a great job satisfying “engagement” numbers (for now), but are doing a terrible job actually mattering to people.
“Capturing eyeballs” isn’t enough. We can talk about engagement with ads all we want, but the downward spiral of online ad effectiveness is never going to stop until, as Haque notes, we as advertisers find ways to elevate people and help them improve their lives.
Haque’s article may be centered around advertising, but as his title (and everything else) suggests, his brilliant idea holds water on a much wider spectrum than just online ads.
Here’s what I mean. Gather up the content you’ve been posting over the last few months on your website and social channels—white papers, blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, all of it. Look at it as a whole. Are you selling or peddling your products or services most of the time? Are you pushing towards engagement with no real end goal in sight? Are you contributing to the noise? Or, are you going against the grain and producing content that really matters?
I don’t mean “thought leadership.” I mean substantive, hard-hitting content built off of your area(s) of expertise that makes your customers’ lives better instead of just selling to them. That type of content is much harder to produce, but it’s infinitely more important.
The fact of the matter is, today’s consumers of B2C and B2B products and services—who do indeed happen to be real humans—are being bombarded from all sides by content and ads that add no value to their lives, whatsoever. That’s what Haque is getting at in his FastCo article, and it’s also a problem I see with content and social media at large, too. Do you want 1,000,000 likes, or to grow your business all while solving a real problem people have in their lives?
I’d hope you don’t want your business to be one of the ones contributing to that bombardment, whether it’s paid or organic. You should, I think, want to elevate people and help them realize their true potential.
I won’t claim to have all the answers about what this type of content should look like or where you should be looking to find good examples. It obviously doesn’t make sense for a social media company to enable you to cook better food, or for a colocation company to create a virtual doctor app. What does make sense is thinking hard about the problem your business helps solve, and creating solutions to better solve these problems. Then you’ll find inspiration for great content, no matter what your business does or sells.
It’s easy to push for engagement or to publish tweets that disappear into the fold. It’s much harder to build a business that impacts the world in a positive way, and to create content to fit. But, as is often the case, doing the hard thing should have a much longer-lasting impact in the end.
Image credit: CC by Ewan Kian